Is the Shonen Genre Silently Turning Seinen?

In Short
  • The classic shonen tropes, such as the theme of friendships, family, etc, and presenting lighthearted experiences, are starting to fade in modern shonen series.
  • Next-gen animanga series such as Jujutsu Kaisen, Chainsaw Man, and Hell's Paradise deliver seinen themes such as violence and gore over the classic shonen themes.
  • Due to the unstoppable popularity of Shonen among adults, I believe authors are bringing mature seinen tropes into modern shonen anime and manga.

Out of all the five different types of anime and manga genres, Shonen has been extremely popular with the anime community for the longest time. Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, and many more gems boosted the popularity of Shonen to unbelievable levels. However, if you paid close attention to the latest shonen manga and anime, you might have noticed that the tides have turned. Discover more about how the shonen genre is silently transforming into seinen, or being more open to the reality that involves violence, gore-filled action, and betrayal.

Shonen’s Classic Tropes are Slowly Fading Away

The main characters of majority of popular shonen anime and manga.
Image Courtesy: Fandom Wiki

Back in the 2000s, we are well aware of the tropes defining the Shonen category. This includes the power of friendship, perseverance, ambitions, indomitable will, and incredible fights. These tropes combined with amazing stories resulted in the birth of the greatest Shonen animanga series such as One Piece, Naruto, Bleach, and many more.

So what did all these amazing series have in common? They are jovial and high-spirited at their core.

More importantly, Shonen translates to “young boy.” Typically, this kind of anime and manga are aimed at teenage boys. They have light-hearted themes coupled with a slight focus on violence and some mature themes. However, lately, in the current-gen of Shonen manga, the OG tropes of Shonen have started to vanish slowly, and we are treading down the seinen path. And it may have started with Attack on Titan over a decade back.

Is This the New Evolution of Shonen?

Modern manga's volume covers
Image Courtesy: Fandom Wiki

Not long ago, manga and anime fans started to discover an unusual shift in modern shonen series such as Jujutsu Kaisen, Chainsaw Man, Hell’s Paradise, etc. These three together were heralded as the Anti-Shonen and “Dark Trio” of Shonen similar to how One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach came to be known as the “Big Three”.

If you are wondering why, it is because these series have no holds barred when it comes to mature themes such as violence, gore, psychology, and more.

Each series in the Dark Trio doesn’t shy away from violence and convivial themes like friendship can’t be found anymore. Most of the time, we don’t have enough room to breathe as the stakes are through the roof, and the realism hits differently in these stories.

Altogether, when reading or watching any modern Shonen series, we can obviously see how these series subvert the expectations of traditional Shonen series.

One can even bring in the good old My Hero Academia and Attack on Titan into this mix as these series started on a lighter side, misleading the readers, and evolved into a much darker version over the years. I still remember watching AOT as humans vs. Titans and MHA as superheroes vs. villains at first. As the story progressed, the authors painted the canvas with a darker approach.

AOT tackled a lot of adult themes like philosophy and the complexity of freedom, love, war, politics, and what humans must do to survive. On the other side, MHA showcased the depth of good vs evil. So, these series completely made the fans question — ” Is this series shonen or seinen?”

The Ever-Growing Popularity of Modern Shonen

After understanding the transformation, if you are curious about how the evolution occurred, I have the answer. I believe that the unstoppable popularity of shonen resulted in bringing audiences from all different age groups, the majority of them being adults. As the inexorable adults have entered the equation, it is a no-brainer for mangaka to craft a mature experience with their series.

Long ago, Shonen belonged to those under the age of eighteen and instilled in them the importance of family, friendship, etc. It is not always a bad thing that it is difficult to discover the classic shonen tropes these days. But I believe it is important to notice the path we are headed towards and what I discussed so far is the current situation of shonen in modern day.

Final Verdict: Is a New Era of Shonen Here?

Is the Shonen Genre Silently Turning Seinen?
Image Courtesy: X/@VIZMedia

As I said earlier, this new shift in the shonen category is not necessarily a bad thing as it elevates the popularity and success of the modern shonen series to greater heights. For example, Jujutsu Kaisen was helmed as the most popular anime in 2023 according to the Guinness World Records.

However, I believe that the target audience of Shonen will catch more than a glimpse of what Seinen offers at such a young age. Hence, it boils down to everyone’s individual preference at the end of the day.

If you like having a mature experience in Shonen animanga series, there are several next-gen manga options for you to explore. However, if you don’t, you can stick with new series such as Astro Royale that stick to the classic Shonen tropes.

Ultimately, I wish mangakas to merge the old and new ways of shonen to forge a new identity in the industry that will equally entertain every single fan around the world.

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